‘Prevention is better than cure’ might have been my tweet last weekend if I had got as far as tweeting (I am a slow starter) but I was at least able to enjoy the many tweets circulating during the Hospital Open Day last Saturday.

I went along for an interview with Louisa Hannan at Radio Solent on Friday for her Drivetime show [Listen again here]. I met Gary Lowe there – he was there to talk about lots of hospital attractions like theatres open to the public, ambulances, the air ambulance and ground ambulance. We often forget what a scary place hospital is for many people. Demystifying and explaining things in a simple way is a very important skill for all clinical staff, opening the hospital to the public is a good way of achieving this at an organisational level. There was even FREE PARKING, although I suggested people ought to walk or cycle if they didn’t live far away.

I had been well briefed by our Cancer Research UK research engagement manager Liz Allaway. From Cancer Sciences we ran lab tours during which visitors were able to see the laboratories that are never normally open to the public and find out about the work the researchers do and why. They could even take part in a hands on lab demonstration.

We had lots of activities and games for children, for example, they could play at being a scientist in the interactive Berry Flow cell culture game. There were games explaining how targeted cancer therapies work and an adult “game” called “Conversation C” where visitors took part in a round table discussion about what elements of cancer research they would choose to fund if they were sitting on a grant review board.

Another star attraction was the giant ‘walk-in’ Inflatable breast (last year we had an inflatable colon). It was extremely busy in there – I never managed to walk through it, there was always a queue whenever I wandered past. It was of course educational and visitors could learn all about breast cancer from Mr Ramsey Cutress (Associate Professor of Surgery).

Another appropriate theme on display was around healthy living and cancer, know your numbers (are you drinking too much alcohol?), and lots of information about a healthy active lifestyle to reduce the risk of cancer. Most people are not aware that obesity increases cancer risks, even fewer understand that high fat and low lean is a particularly toxic combination with higher risk of cancer, less good recovery from surgery and probably a higher future risk of cancer relapse.

Moving from the Somers building, visitors could continue exploring their health by visiting the Clinical Research Facility. The interactive physiology lab staff were on hand to measure your anthropometric characteristics – height, weight (to give body mass index) but beyond this using the SECA machine they were measuring visitors proportion of fat and lean mass – very revealing. The exercise bikes were also in action with visitors attempting to cycle over 100km through the day. While you were waiting for all the active stuff a 5lb lump of simulated fat was being passed around – possibly the biggest incentive anyone might need to go on a weight reducing diet!

Professor Diana Eccles

Cancer Sciences at the Hospital Open Day

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